Salmon have long been faced with barriers to survival, at least since Americans began exploring alternative sources of energy. Coal is dirty, oil is dangerous, and both are disappearing fast. We turned to hydropower, to harness the energy of a river’s flow downstream.
We still enjoyed the salmon: their quintessential journey upstream, jumping up falls with a superhero-like flight, traveling thousands of miles home. But we have forgotten that they are the glue that holds together larger ecosystems and important industries.
Now, however, our actions are backfiring and the salmon have nearly disappeared from our rivers. Nearly. Luckily, here in the northwest we have realized the importance of these creatures – economically and environmentally – and are taking measures to sustain their populations and keep our energy flowing.
Americans began building hydropower facilities as far back as the colonial era. Dams grew larger, and were placed in more powerful rivers to increase energy capture. As science began to catch up, however, these large concrete structures began to create more costly problems for surrounding ecosystems and economies. With some over a century old, management of the dams costs more than ever. In some cases, enough to shut down the dam entirely.
At the same time, the renewable energy industry has made incredible breakthroughs. The need for these large hydropower projects has steadily decreased.
In the late 90’s Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition went right out and said it.
There are certain dams that just need to go.
Specifically, the four Lower Snake River dams in southeastern Washington no longer make sense.
These aren’t extremists. They are not chaining themselves to spillways or planting explosives in the reservoirs. They are scientists, members of Congress, Governors, Native American tribes, and thousands of local and national businesses.
“Wolves are thriving in the Idaho woods for the same reason salmon should be – lots of protected, healthy habitat. But it’s the fish whose presence triggers the larger ecological ripple. Salmon tend to wander a bit farther than wolves.” -Steven Hawley in The Idaho Tide, an essay for Patagonia.
A resident to Hood River Oregon, Hawley’s new book “Recovering a Lost River” highlights the powerful argument for dam removal on the Snake River, to be released March, 2011.
With these 4 dams gone, this vital species might stand a chance to recover its lost population. As consumers of energy, we will also stand to gain. Power production from these hydropower projects could be easily replaced by new forms of energy.
Imagine rafting down the classic Hell’s Canyon stretch of the Snake River and seeing massive salmon swimming beneath your raft, or even catching one for a delicious feast for dinner.
So what is stopping us?
The Obama Administration, unfortunately, is continueing the status quo. Following the same suggestions as the previous Bush and Clinton administrations, Obama’s plan suggests that other measures be taken, such as additional monitoring and study of the fish. This has already been done and blatantly ignores the urgent need for action.
This spring, Judge Redden will make a key decision on Obama’s federal salmon plan.
If Redden decides that it is not good enough, then Obama will need to make a change.
Save Our Wild Salmon is working hard to make action happen for this endangered species. Feel free to get involved.
Let your senators know and take action in just 5 mintues. Please contact me at Susan@SMHollingsworth.com for further information on how to get involved.